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Innovation in Banking February 7, 2012

Posted by reto wettach in making the invisible visible, service design, social computing.
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As written before, finally some user-experience-based innovation is happening in banking. Here another interesting site: HOI, a swiss site (“hoi” means “hi” in Swiss-German), is offering a quite detailed and nicely designed calculator for personal finances. This calculator offers either the calculation of your “potential” or the suppoort in reaching financial goals. Furthermore it offers the comparison of my own results with the average in Switzerland and – if wanted – with the average of my friends, which I think is a sensible way to share financial information.

(screenshot from hoi.ch)



Why People Adopt Or Wait For New Technology January 10, 2012

Posted by reto wettach in innovation process, theory.
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(this ad for the new Samsung phone is making fun of the typical Apple early adopters…)

Jared Spool, consultant with UIE, posted a nice article on why people adopt or wait for new technology. He identified the following categories for the different behaviors:

  • People Who Are First
    • Being First to Gain Social Status
    • Being First as Product Research (That’s me and my colleagues at IxDS…)
    • Being First to Solve An Active Need (according to Spool, these are the folks to design for)
  • People Who Wait
    • Waiting Because Unaware of Latent Needs
    • Waiting Because Of Perceived Cost Of Change
    • Waiting Out The Product Lifetime

I like this model, even though some of the points are larger than the others and might therefore need a further categorization, as e.g. “Cost of Change”, where Spool already mentioned that the cost of change comes in many forms…

Furthermore it would be interesting to see how these groups are distributed for certain kind of new technologies.

And it would also be good to discuss which strategies are around to address the various groups.

(via Andrea Bauer)

Review of Steve Jobs’ Biography January 9, 2012

Posted by reto wettach in entrepreneurship, innovation process, jobs, methods, physical interaction design.
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Over the holiday I had the chance to read the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. I really enjoyed the reading, especially as I have been influenced by Jobs’ work very early on. I also enjoyed the description of the Californian culture as lived by Steve Jobs, being barfood, trying weird diets and networking with the most interesting people in the Bay Area, as e.g. Steward Brand, who was a huge influence for me as well.

Here a couple of observations/inspirations I am taking from reading this book:

Tools vs. Results:

The first mission of Pixar was to develop and sell high-end grafic hardware and software. The first product was called the Pixar Image Computer:

(Pixar Image Computer, image source)

This computer was price at 150.000 $ and targeted towards professionals in the grafic design industry, but also for specialized applications as computer tomografie.

Jobs vision was to make this product accessible to masses – at a price of 30.000 $.

Same was true with the Pixar’s rendering software called Reyes (“Render Everything You Ever Saw”): Steve Jobs was planning to make this software also available to the mass market.

But with both ideas he failed. However, Pixar had a small department desiging animations to show off the power of the Pixar hardware and software. One of these films was Luxo Jr., which was first shown at an adacemic conference (!), at Siggraph 1986:

When all the hardware and software projects at Pixar  failed, Jobs had to fire most of the people. Interestingly, it was the small creative deparment, which not only made Pixar survive, but turned the company into a huge success.

The question of selling tools or the results of the tools is quite an old one: Raymond Scott and Bob Moog were both involved in the invention of the synthesizer. However, Scott saw himself as a composer and therefore wanted to keep his tools as secret as possible:

Electronic music for commercials and films was my living then – and I thought I had this great advantage – because of my sequencer. (source: unaddressed letter written by Raymond Scott, late 1970s)

Moog on the other side started to build and sell products – and his company is still around today!

Computer as Bicycle

When Jobs took over the Mac-development form Raskin, he also wanted to get rid of Raskin’s suggested working titel “Macintosh” – named after Raskin’s favorite apple.

So, Steve Jobs suggested “Bicycle”, because the computer is kind of the bicycle for our minds:

I really like this metaphor, especially as riding a bicycle is a strong image I am using when talking about Physical Interaction Design. In the important paper “How Bodies Matter: Five Themes for Interaction Design” (2006), Scott Klemmer et al. use the bicycle to talk about how the WIMP-interface is not taking advantage of our ability for “motor memory”. They suggest: “Assigning dedicated actions to different functions of a user interface can take better advantage of kinesthetic memory.”.
I always get a laugh when asking the audience to imaging to ride a bycicly by using drop-down-menues…

Market Research and Prototypes

Did Alexander Graham Bell do any market research before he invented the telephone?
– Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs is talking here about quantitative research, because when you look into his process it becomes clear that he did a lot of what we call qualitative research:

For example when developing the Apple Stores, Steve Jobs set up a steady changing prototype of a store in an empty warehouse in Cupertino. And he forced a lot of people to come over and give feedback. Larry Ellison, founder and CEO of Oracle, is quoted to have said: “He was obsessed by every detail of the aesthetic and the service experience. It got to the point where I said, ‘Steve I’m not coming to see you if you’re going to make me go to the store again.’”

Jobs really like prototypes and their were basis of his discussions with Jonathan Ive and other product developers and managers – as Ive describes it:

This great room [main room in the Apple design center with six long steel tables for displaying and playing with works in progress] is the one place in the company where you can look around and see everything we have in the works. When Steve comes in, he will sit at one of these tables. If we’re working on a new iPhone, for example, he might grab a stool and start playing with different models and feeling them in his hands, remarking on which ones he likes best. Then he will graze by the other tables, just him and me, to see where all the other products are heading. He can get a sense of the sweep of the whole company, the iPhone and iPad, the iMac and laptop and everything we’re considering. That helps him see where the company is spending its energy and how things connect. And he can ask, “Does doing this make sense, because over here is where we are growing a lot?” or questions like that. He gets to see things in relationship to each other, which is pretty hard to do in a big company. Looking at the models on these tables, he can see the future for the next three years.

Much of the design process is a conversation, a back-and-forth as we walk around the tables and play with the models. He doesn’t like to read complex drawings. He wants to see and feel a model. He’s right. I get surprised when we make a model and then realize it’s rubbish, even though based on the CAD [computer-aided design] renderings it looked great.

He loves coming in here because it’s calm and gentle. It’s a paradise if you’re a visual person. There are no formal design reviews, so there are no huge decision points. Instead, we can make the decisions fluid. Since we iterate every day and never have dumb-ass presentations, we don’t run into major disagreements.

And – of course – Jobs did not really like Powerpoint: “People would confront a problem by creating a presentation. I wanted them to engage, to hash things out at the table, rather than show a bunch of slides. People who know what they’re talking about don’t need PowerPoint.”

(I couldn’t find a picture of the Apple Design Studio, but this one by Edwin Tofslie showing the evolution of Apple products is nice as well)(image source)

Physical vs. Digital

Steve Jobs was always into real products as Issacson writes: “Jobs liked to be shown physical objects that he could feel, inspect, and fondle.“.  But Jobs was also in what I would call “Physical Interaction”:

“There’s a temptation in our networked age to think that ideas can be developed by email and iChat,” he said. “That’s crazy. Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas.”

I really support this quote and therefore the space for creativity is really important! We need more thinking into this area.

Last but not least

Deciding what  not to do is as important as deciding what to do. That’s true for companies, and it’s true for products.

Merry Christmas by IxDS December 24, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in poetic, privat.
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This year, we at IxDS send out our Holiday greetings with a personalized snowflake: based on the recipient’s name a snowflake is generated in our typical segment-display-grid:

(image shows the snowflake for “interactiondesign”)

Please try your own snowflake here.

We got a very nice review on the blog designmadeingermany by Nadine Rossa. Thank you!

So, happy holiday to you all!



Gamification at WordPress December 18, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gamification.

As a professor, but also in my practical work, I have been looking quite a lot into the potentials of gamification.

The other day I stumbled on an example for gamification, which did not really convince me: Here at WordPress, after each post one writes, a sidebar opens and displays the number of posts one has written so far:

Firstly, I find it strange to think that the number of posts is a motivation for people writing their blogs.

But then – to use one of the core gamification elements, the progression dynamics, to motivate people to write 5 more blog posts, seems even stranger to me.

So, when I finally reached the 190st post, then I will get motivated to write more by another progress bar helping me to reach my “Next Posting Goal” of 195 posts?

The typography in this sidebar is also quite interesting: in the sentence “You published your 188th post.” it is not “You”, who is highlightes, also not “188” or “post”, but “published” – and who is the publisher? Yes, it is WordPress!

I think that WordPress should rethink their gamification strategy and have a close look at what motivates their users…


Kate Hartman on Bodies, Plants and Glaciers December 18, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in gadgets, physical interaction design, poetic, theory.
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(Botanicall is a device, which allows plants to twitter or to make phone calls) (image source)

Kate Hartman, one of the inventors of the Botanicalls, gave a very entertaining TED-talk on her work:

At 1:03 she makes a wonderful statement on “Why bodies matter”:

Everybody got one. All of you […] have bodies! Don’t be ashamed! And this is something that we have in common. And they act as our primary interfaces for the world. 


Merry Fritzmas! December 13, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in physical interaction design, poetic.
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Stefan Herman, who is working with us on Fritzing, developed this wonderful geeky Christmas star.

With each Starterkit the Fritzing team is shipping such a star.
Order fast – I just hear that there are only 35 left…


Job Offer at IxDS December 13, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in jobs.
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IxDS, the Berlin-based Interaction Design Studios I am working with, is seeking for a FRONTEND/UI-DEVELOPER!

Here from the job description:

We are looking for an all-around sympathetic person to work with us on our projects as a frontend-developer a.k.a. user interface programmer a.k.a. creative technologist.

= Things you should know about =

You should be passionate about at least one of:
– Web (HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Ajax,…)
– Mobile (Android, iOS,…)
– Freeform (Processing, Cinder, Arduino,…)

Additionally, you should be able to communicate fluently with:
– colleagues developing backend technologies
– colleagues designing the user interface design

= What you can look forward to =

IxDS is an interaction design consultancy based in Berlin.
We apply methods of co-creation and agile prototyping to give shape to our clients’ visions.
This means you will
– collaborate in a dynamic, interdiscplinary team
– develop with contemporary agile methods
– get direct feedback from end-users in our co-creation process
– work on a broad range of innovation-oriented projects
– have time for learning new things
– get fair pay and life-friendly working hours

= Apply =

We would like to fill this position as soon as possible.
Full-time employment is desired, but flexible arrangements are definitely possible.

Please send your application, including a portfolio and links to prior work to work@ixds.de.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate.

Why service design is the next big thing in cultural innovation December 13, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in innovation process, methods, service design.
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(image source)

In TheGuardien from 07.12.2011, there is a nice article on Service Design: The author, Rohan Gunatillake, is working with the Edinburgh Festivals Innovation Lab, which identifies and develops ways to improve the festival culture in Edinburgh – “for audiences, for artists, for partners and for the festival organisations themselves“.

In his article, Rohan makes a nice remark on what Service Design is: just as product design is a discipline where formal design methodologies and approaches are used to make your hoover, smartphone and car the best it can be for your needs and your lifestyle, service design does the same for experiences.

He then makes four statements, which sound quite familiar for us at IxDS as well:

  1. What people want isn’t always what organisations want
  2. We cannot afford to limit innovation just to technology
  3. We should be customising the wheel, not reinventing it
  4. We need a more established culture of prototyping

Especially the last one is interesting as I am wondering about a culture of prototyping in the area of festivals: Rohan published a “Festival Design DNA“, which “hosts a toolkit for how to apply service design for people-centred innovation in festivals and the wider cultural sector“. Here you can find the toolkit – under a CC license!

In this toolkit they present three prototyping approaches:

Desktop Walkthrough

(example for desktop walkthrough; image source)

Even though the descriptions are short and quite general and not  focussed on Service Design for festivals, I like their understanding of Desktop Walkthrough: Using figurines, complex services can be brought to life and visualised in 3D, enhancing your paper sketches.

And what do they suggest using?  Plastic figurines, Lego
Great idea!!!

(Thanks to Experientia)

Tactful Calling goes live December 12, 2011

Posted by reto wettach in Uncategorized.
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IxDS has been working on various innovations projects with the Deutsche Telekom. One rather larger design research project was “Gender Inspired Technology” or “Woman’s Phone”, which tool place in 2008-2010. I briefly wrote about this before.

Today a project which came out of this collaboration with Prof. Dr. Gesche Joost and her Design Research Lab at Deutsche Telekom was released as a “technology demonstrator”: Tactful Calling is an Android app, which allows the caller to indicate the urgency of a call as well as the time frame he oder she would like to have for the conversation. Instead of answering an incoming call when busy, Tactful Calling allows the recipient to press one button and indicate to their caller that they are busy and will call them back later.

This app is quite exciting as it is challenging a core part of our phone culture – the way we place and accept calls. When you look closely to how people place calls on Skype or how they use SMS to make sure that a call is not disturbing, it is surprising that such a change of culture is only happening today.

The technical implementation of Tactful Calling is still quite complex as it requires both – caller and recipient- to have the app installed – and as it needs an additional IP-based server-client-connection. However, the shift in how to place calls is quite exciting! Let’s see what is going to happen when people discover this beta version…


PS.: The app is not running under Android 4.0 – yet!